After six years working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Switzerland, France and Belgium, Merlin Labron-Johnson returned to the UK to open Portland. Nine months later, he was awarded a Michelin star at just twenty-four years old.
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To begin, make the choux pastry. Bring the milk, water, sugar and butter to the boil then incorporate the flour and salt
5g of salt
250ml of milk
250ml of water
130g of butter
20g of sugar
250g of flour
Using a rubber spatula, work the paste over a medium heat until it is quite dry and coming away from the edges of the pan. Transfer the paste to a stand mixer and whisk until cool
Once the paste has cooled down, add the eggs one by one whilst continuously whisking. Pass the paste through a drum sieve and scoop into piping bags
8 free-range eggs
Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 8
Using a stencil, trace a 10cm diameter circle onto a tray lined with baking parchment. Pipe 2 rings of choux pastry into the circle and bake for 6 minutes. Turn the oven down to 150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 6 minutes then remove from the oven. Leave to cool on a rack
For the praline cream, split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the milk with the praline paste. Heat the milk to scalding point
90g of praline paste
1 vanilla pod
500g of milk
50g of flour
150g of egg yolk
120g of sugar
30g of cornflour
Whisk the egg yolk with the sugar, flour and cornflour and incorporate the hot praline milk. Return the mixture to the heat and cook whilst continuously whisking until the mixture has thickened and the flour has been cooked out
Pass through a sieve and cover the surface with a sheet of cling film so that it does not form a skin. Allow to cool
Once cool, place the praline cream in a stand mixer and whisk until the mixture is smooth and unctuous. Gently fold in the whipped cream using a spatula and place the mixture in a piping bag
50g of cream, lightly whipped
To make a croquant, make a dry caramel from the sugar in large pan with a wide bottom and incorporate the toasted almonds
100g of flaked almonds, lightly toasted
300g of caster sugar
Mix well, spread thinly onto a silpat mat and leave to cool. Using a rolling pin, smash the brittle into small pieces and set aside
Place a little praline paste into a small piping bag
To finish, cut the choux pastry in half horizontally. Pipe a little praline paste on the top half of the pastry and sprinkle over the croquant. Dust liberally with icinig sugar and season with a pinch of flaky sea salt
Pipe the praline cream onto the bottom half of choux pastry and place the top half on top of the cream like a sandwich. Serve immediately
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